The Biden administration’s newly released “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful” plan offers a concrete vision for implementing the 30 x 30 portion of President Joe Biden’s climate change executive order. Thirty percent of American land and water will be conserved for nature, helping mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss, while distributing the benefits of healthy natural landscape for all Americans. Of particular importance is the plan’s commitment to guaranteeing diversity and racial justice within this process. As the plan states: “As a result of discrimination and segregation in housing, transportation, conservation and natural resource policy, communities of color and low-income communities have disproportionately less access to nature’s benefits, such as clean water, clean air and access to nature.”
To rectify this, the plan seeks a bold combination of scientific and community-based approaches, which will improve “capacity to purify drinking water, to cool the air for a nearby neighborhood, to provide a safe outdoor escape for a community that is park deprived. … to unlock access for outdoor recreation, hunting, angling, and beyond.”
We applaud both the acknowledgment of historic injustices for communities of color in access to the outdoors and the drawing up of concrete plans to rectify these injustices. As readers will know, hunting and fishing are integral parts of both the conservation management and cultural life of Minnesota. The contribution of angling and hunting communities to conservation in the state — through financial contributions, nonprofit activities, volunteer time and political activity — is immense. Unfortunately, immigrants and communities of color have been historically underrepresented in the hunting and fishing world in our state.
This is changing; the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has made significant strides at including and recruiting immigrants and people of color. Municipalities like St. Paul have created fishing programs specifically directed at communities of color, and nonprofits such as Bipoc Outdoors, Afro Outdoors, Hunters of Color, and our own organization are making inroads in upping participation and voicing the unique concerns of immigrants and communities of color in the hunting and fishing world.
While we begin to work toward creating a more inclusive hunting and fishing climate in the state, we need to ask ourselves whether we are also guaranteeing access to quality hunting and fishing experiences in the places where these communities live. The Twin Cities metro area is the most diverse part of the state, yet much of our collective conservation efforts go to areas in Greater Minnesota. It is time for policymakers, state agencies, nonprofits, and concerned citizens to look at the ways in which we can increase publicly huntable lands within the seven-county metro area. We should expand on DNR stocking programs and habitat improvement in urban lakes and rivers, and design new parks and riverside developments in ways that enhance angling access.
For people who may be nervous about traversing the woods and waters of Greater Minnesota, or lack the financial resources to drive hours away, quality hunting and fishing closer to home can be the difference between taking full part in Minnesota’s outdoor heritage or staying home. For this reason, we should take the Biden administration’s 30 x 30 plan as a call to improve on the important work going on in the state of Minnesota and seek to better the quality of urban and suburban fisheries, open new areas to public hunting and acquire more private land for public hunting and recreation in the Twin Cities.
Tene Niambi Morgan, M. Mahmood Tajbakhsh and Erick Anderson are St. Paul natives, avid outdoors people and board members of the Inclusive Outdoor Alliance.
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